Studies focus on solutions
Towns get creative in bringing grocery stores to their rural communities
The townspeople of Leeton, Mo., had been without a grocery store for almost 10 years when a new one finally opened in the largely abandoned downtown district. It wasn’t operated by a grocery chain or a private investor. With only 619 residents, the town simply wasn’t a good investment option.
Instead, the grocery store, called the Bulldog Express, was opened by the high school, and operated by its students. The new store teaches students practical skills while providing a critical piece of infrastructure for the rural community.
a host of unconventional solutions
In Gove, Kan., (population 105), local citizens operate a community-owned grocery store and cafe in a building made possible by donations and volunteer labor. Today, the organization also operates a grocery distribution business that delivers groceries to its own store and to other small stores. This arrangement allows the stores to meet minimum purchasing requirements, a major challenge to rural grocery stores.
These stories are two of a host of unconventional solutions being implemented across the country, as communities struggle to hang on to their town grocery stores. The issue is gaining attention nationwide, with several rural research groups studying the issue, and a national Rural Grocery Store Summit held last year in Kansas. For more information, visit these sites:
The Center for Rural Affairs center recently released two reports. The first report examines the critical role grocery stores play in rural communities and challenges faced by those stores. A follow-up report examines models of rural grocery store ownership and how they deal with challenges. Call (402) 687-2100.
The Rural Grocery Initiative
The Rural Grocery Initiative sponsored the 2010 Rural Grocery Store Summit in Kansas. The site contains resources for grocers on suppliers, networks, surveys and funding opportunities as well as inspirational videos. In Kansas alone, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,500 people have closed since 2007. The Rural Grocery Initiative is a Kansas-based effort, but its findings apply to rural areas across the country.